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Ryoji Ikeda - dataplex

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Artist: Ryoji Ikeda

Album: dataplex

Label: Raster-Noton

Review date: Apr. 26, 2006

Japanese master Ryoji Ikeda returns with his seventh solo album of meticulous sound, and the first installment of his “datamatics”series, which interrogates and interprets the mass of raw computer data surrounding us all. Few are as equipped as Ikeda to materialize raw zeros and ones into sonic information: he’s spent the better part of an 11-year career aping the sounds of heart monitors, dot-matrix printers and spinning hard drives. dataplex weaves thrillingly tight compositions from these threads, while at the same time pushing Ikeda’s austere palette in exciting new directions.

Ikeda lays out his tools like a surgeon over the first eight tracks. All his favorite toys are lined up: jaw-clenching high frequencies, bottomless rumbles, skittering taps across your ears, chattering machinations around the middle range, shocks of white noise. Playful and precise, dataplex begins at once technological and yet with an unmistakable personality. Moving along, however, the high frequency evolves into a spacious ping. The churning rumble becomes a nimble rhythmic bounce. Ikeda shaves down the harsh edges and pushes these raw sounds into funky stutters and vibrant masses.

In Ikeda’s own circuitous and clipped way, dataplex drives to its wonderful conclusion by expanding even further. From inconsequential code and dramatic silence, alien patterns emerge and mesh into an entirely new landscape. The passing glances to dance beats and ambient washes give way to a submerged environment within which Michael Morley's Gate might even float about comfortably.

So many of Ikeda’s compositions manipulate space with unexpected transitions and harsh contrasts. The album’s penultimate track, the 10-minute summation “data.matrix,” builds these contrasts and then rubs them together into a seamless whole. Ikeda concludes with a conceptual bit of techie trickery; after parsing and building and shaping his data, his guiding hand recedes into the background, leaving the CD player struggling to wrestle pure data. (Warning: most CD-ROM drives will fail miserably.)

Ikeda frequently questions the role of source and composer; his music may sound random or at least arbitrarily constructed. On datacomplex, he shows his face more clearly than ever before. Considering that “datamatics” promises to be a series of audio and visual creations, no doubt Ikeda sees infinite possibility in streams of modern source code. dataplex is a surprising and enthralling start.

By Jeff Seelbach

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